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Danielle Smith replacement would be 'foolish,' Tom Flanagan says

Despite losing in all four Alberta byelections on Monday, the replacement of Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith would be a "foolish" decision, political scientist Tom Flanagan says.

Governing Progressive Conservative Party won every riding up for grabs on Monday

Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith says she has asked her party's president to include a leadership review vote after the party lost all four byelection contests on Monday. (Mike Spenrath/CBC)

Despite losing all four Alberta byelections on Monday, the replacement of Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith would be a bad move, Tom Flanagan says.

The political scientist and former senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the Wildrose Party's defeat Tuesday in an interview with CBC News. He said voting against Smith in her requested leadership review would be a big mistake.

"I think the party would probably be foolish to vote against her because when you look at the history, it was her leadership that catapulted the party into the big leagues," Flanagan said. 

Smith has asked for a review of her leadership in the wake of her party’s loss in all four of Monday’s Alberta byelection contests.

The governing Progressive Conservative Party won all the races, including Calgary-Foothills, where Premier Jim Prentice picked up a seat.

Alberta Education Minister Gordon Dirks won in Calgary-Elbow, Mike Ellis won in Calgary-West, and Stephen Mandel won in Edmonton-Whitemud.

“We didn’t get the results that we had hoped for,” Smith admitted.

Smith calls for party 'soul-searching'

Smith said she has asked her party’s president to include a leadership vote on the agenda at the Wildrose annual general meeting in Red Deer next month.

"We do have to do some soul-searching to find out why it is we didn't gain ground and as party leader I have to take responsibility for it," she said. 

Under the party’s constitution, Smith isn’t required to submit to a leadership review until after the next general election, she said.

But given Monday’s results Smith said she feels party members should be consulted sooner. She said she wants a firm mandate of at least 77 per cent support. 

“You can only lead if people are willing to follow,” she said. “I have the fire in my belly, I want to do it.”

Attempt to avoid backlash?

Flanagan says the move is more likely aimed at getting ahead of potential backlash over the party's disappointing showing in the byelections.

"It's attempting to short-circuit criticism of the leader," he said. "Pushing the issue like this looks like an attempt to get a show of support quickly."

Smith said she believes she still enjoys broad support within the party. And she said Wildrose remains the only opposition party that presents Albertans with a viable alternative to the current government.

“We really are… the only party that is capable of contesting the Tories in every riding in this province.”

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